The Android app of Netflix is no longer available to be downloaded from the Google Play Store for unlocked and rooted Android devices.
The app first started to show up as "incompatible" in the Google Play Store when being viewed by a rooted Android device. Netflix later confirmed that it was not a glitch.
Netflix Android App No Longer Available For Rooted Devices
Netflix confirmed that it has blocked modified devices from gaining access to the Android app's listing on the Google Play Store. Users with rooted devices who have already downloaded the app or try to sideload the app's APK reported that the app is still working, but it may only be a matter of time before Netflix cuts off the functionality of older versions of its Android app.
"With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store," Netflix said in a statement.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Widevine is a digital rights management system created by Google that works with various desktop and mobile platforms. With version 5.0 of its Android app, Netflix is now relying on Widevine for copy protection to prevent the propagation of piracy for its content.
Piracy is a growing concern for Netflix, especially after it enabled the option for users to download shows into the SD card of their Android devices. It is easier to remove the copy protection on downloaded Netflix shows than it is to rip the service's streams, and rooted smartphones that provide users with more control over their device increases the likelihood of bypassing DRM systems.
Will The Move Really Help Against Piracy?
The switch to Widevine may hinder users from pirating Netflix content, but there are already a lot of proposed solutions to the problem. One such solution is Magisk, a software capable of rooting Android devices, and its Magisk Hide feature, which prevents the root from being detected. The feature allows Android smartphones to bypass similar protection applied by developers of apps such as Pokémon GO and Super Mario Run.
Unfortunately, the move may also hurt legitimate users. The Google Play Store listing seems to be tied to clearance to run Android Pay, not Widevine itself. Devices with unlocked bootloaders, therefore, may be cut off from downloading Netflix even if their firmware is still secure.
In addition, some owners who decide to root their Android devices are only interested in unlocking customization options for their smartphones without any desire to use them for malicious purposes. These users may now have to decide whether to give up the harmless customizations that they have made on their smartphone just to be able to continue watching Netflix shows such as 13 Reasons Why and Stranger Things on their device.
The popularity of Netflix and its original content continues to soar, perhaps raising demand for pirated copies of its shows. The streaming service surpassed 100 million subscribers last month, and it remains to be seen whether it will maintain its monthly subscription price at current levels.